From a virtual press conference to a letter to the White House, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) led eight colleagues in pressing for the Biden administration to tap the Defense Production Act to increase domestic production of monkeypox vaccines.
The senator’s state of New York currently hosts more than one quarter of U.S. cases of monkeypox, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures. Rising cases prompted New York to declare a state disaster emergency earlier this week, followed shortly by California and Illinois. As of Aug. 3, 2022, the CDC reported more than 6,600 cases nationwide.
“Monkeypox is a serious threat to public health, and we need to be doing everything in our power to ensure that vaccines are widely available to those who need them,” Gillibrand said. “We don’t have time to wait. I urge President Biden to immediately invoke the Defense Production Act to ramp up vaccine supply and keep our communities across our state and our country safe.”
The Defense Production Act was similarly used during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to forcibly increase supplies as supply chain woes mounted. Earlier this week, the Biden administration formed an official team to lead the federal response to monkeypox but has so far resisted use of the Defense Production Act or a national emergency declaration, even as critics have sounded alarms over the rollout of countermeasures.
New York State, for example, has been granted 170,000 vaccine doses, but officials have warned that demand for the vaccines has surged. By invoking the Defense Production Act, President Joe Biden would be able to mandate corporations and manufacturers to hasten production of the vaccine. Currently, the government relies on Bavarian Nordic’s JYNNEOS.
“The World Health Organization indicates that monkeypox is currently endemic in 10 countries and the other type of monkeypox, Congo Basin type, has a nearly 10% fatality rate,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden, calling particular attention to the potential for different variants to affect transmission and immunity. “The threat of the monkeypox virus and its spread demands greater attention. We urge you to act on the hard-earned lessons from COVID and invoke the Defense Production Act to increase the accessibility of testing and vaccines to Americans.”
Joining Gillibrand in this act were U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).